In This Episode
- The first federal death penalty trial under the Biden administration began in New York on Monday against Sayfullo Saipov. Saipov faces murder and terrorism charges for allegedly using a rented truck to kill eight people on a bike path in 2017.
- The Golden Globes makes its return to TV tonight after a year off the air. The organization behind the annual awards ceremony faced sharp criticism in 2021, after an investigation revealed it had no Black members, along with numerous instances of ethical misconduct. Jacqueline Coley, the Awards Editor for Rotten Tomatoes, tells us how Hollywood is responding to the comeback.
- And in headlines: the Georgia special grand jury looking into whether former President Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election completed its investigation, Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin was released from the hospital, and the TSA said a woman tried to bring a 4-foot boa constrictor onto a plane in Tampa.
- Los Angeles Times: Full coverage of the Golden Globes, HFPA investigation – https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2021-04-21/golden-globes-organization-hfpa-full-coverage
- Rotten Tomatoes: Awards Leaderboard | Top Movies of 2022 – https://editorial.rottentomatoes.com/article/awards-leaderboard-top-movies-of-2022/
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Josie Duffy Rice: It is Tuesday, January 10th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What A Day, where we’re currently hunched over Prince Harry’s memoir and scanning every page for our names.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, we’ve never actually met Harry, but we could still have drama with him.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m reading here that I told him to dress up as a Nazi [laugh] and he did it. [laugh]
Josie Duffy Rice: Look, I heard that conversation. I knew you were joking. Okay.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, all jokes, people.
Josie Duffy Rice: All jokes. [laughter] [music break].
Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, the Georgia grand jury investigating Donald Trump for alleged election interference has wrapped up its work. Plus, a friendly reminder from the TSA on how to travel with your emotional support snake.
Josie Duffy Rice: Eek. And literally the worst sentence I’ve ever heard personally in my life. But first, on Monday, the federal trial of Sayfullo Saipov began in New York City. Saipov is accused of using a rented truck to hit and kill eight people on a bike path on Halloween 2017. He has been charged with 28 counts, including eight counts of murder, 18 of attempted murder and terrorism charges. And if convicted, prosecutors are expected to seek the death penalty. Making this trial the first federal death penalty trial under the Biden administration.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. I know that’s important information there and we’ll get to it. But, Josie, you said there would be a trial. Is there any doubt that Saipov actually did this?
Josie Duffy Rice: No, there is no doubt. The defense in this case has been very upfront about the fact that Saipov did kill eight people and injure at least 11. And in fact, five years ago, his lawyer said that he would be willing to plead guilty if prosecutors agreed not to seek the death penalty, which would save a lot of time. It would save a lot of money. Right. Back then, in 2018, the request was kind of a long shot. At the time, President Trump was in office and he literally tweeted, should get death penalty, soon after the incident. Plus, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions instructed federal prosecutors to seek the death penalty in the weeks after the actual event. But then time passed and President Biden took office and it seemed impossible that now Attorney General Merrick Garland would withdraw that death penalty authorization, meaning that the most severe sentence that Saipov could get would be life without parole. But unfortunately, that is not what happened. And prosecutors have decided to go ahead with the death penalty case.
Tre’vell Anderson: Obviously, this man did something super horrible, really, really tragic, caused a lot of harm. But I thought Biden was pretty firmly against the death penalty.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, Tre’vell. I thought that, too. When he was a candidate, Biden said he intended, quote, “to pass legislation to eliminate the death penalty at the federal level and incentivize states to follow the federal government’s example.” So to me, that screams anti-death penalty.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: But as president, his dedication has been much less clear. It has at times seemed like he and Attorney General Garland do want to get rid of capital punishment on the federal level. Garland announced a moratorium on executions in July 2021, for example, quote, “pending a review of the Justice Department’s policies and procedures”. That moratorium was put into place a year after President Trump began executions again after a 17 year federal hiatus and President Trump executed 13 people in that one year. So, in other words, no executions for 17 years. On the federal level, Trump starts executing people again, executes 13 people in a year, and then Biden gets into office and goes back to the hiatus, right?
Tre’vell Anderson: 13 people in one year.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: It feels excessive.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: It feels like a lot.
Josie Duffy Rice: Feels excessive, even if you are pro-death penalty, that feels like you’re having too much fun killing people, which is pretty on brand for Donald Trump. Anyway, that moratorium was assigned in the anti-death penalty direction and there have been other fainter signals too, right?Garland has quietly withdrawn government death penalty requests for 16 defendants nationwide. That’s a pretty good sign that he was anti-death penalty. But there have also been some signs that the administration is pretty pro capital punishment, right? It has defended the death penalty in certain cases, including the Boston bombing case and in the case of white supremacist Dylann Roof. And for those who don’t support the death penalty. This is the most disheartening case thus far for sure. Saipov is the first case where Garland has authorized prosecutors to seek the death penalty. And it’s a pretty significant jump right from what Biden said he valued and what people were expecting when he came into office.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, and, you know, again, this definitely is a brutal, very tragic case. But is there a reason that Garland and the administration are going, you know, full death penalty on this case and not, say, other heinous cases?
Josie Duffy Rice: Well, they haven’t articulated an explanation, but there are theories. So, first, this is a terrorism case. It was the deadliest terror attack in New York City since 9/11. Right? Very symbolic to many of the people who are making these kinds of decisions. It’s a case involving an immigrant. Saipov is from Uzbekistan, and he openly pledged his allegiance to ISIS before and after the attack. These kind of political loaded issues and associations could be part of the reason that Biden and his administration have decided to break their anti-death penalty promise. But this is the thing about the death penalty, right? The point of being anti-death penalty is that you’re anti-death penalty no matter what, even when someone has done something absolutely unthinkable. The point is that the government should not have the right to take a life. That someone else’s moral failure doesn’t excuse our own. So no one is denying that Saipov did something very, very terrible. And yet it’s still very disappointing that Biden, who promised to literally introduce legislation to end the federal death penalty, has now endorsed this drastic shift. Right. The New York Times said that Biden is taking a, quote, “nuanced approach” because maybe the administration is only seeking death penalty in terrorism cases. But I would like to push back on that. There really is no nuanced approach to executing people. You are either pro capital punishment or you are anti capital punishment. That is the line. Um and it is disappointing that he’s on the wrong side of it.
Tre’vell Anderson: It is disappointing.
Josie Duffy Rice: I agree. I am disappointed. Uh. We will continue following this case in the weeks and months to come. But in the meantime, let’s shift gears to something a little less sad than the death penalty, shall we?
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s do it with an update about the Hollywood Foreign Press Association or HFPA. Those are the folks behind the Golden Globes Awards show, which after a year off the air, will be back on our TV screens tonight.
Josie Duffy Rice: Ooh.
Tre’vell Anderson: As a brief refresher, back in 2021, it was revealed that along with a number of financial and ethical concerns, basically people felt like they were getting these really expensive gifts to play favoritism. Right?
Josie Duffy Rice: Mm hmm.
Tre’vell Anderson: For certain shows from certain studios and whatnot. It was also revealed that the HFPA had no Black members out of almost 90 people.
Josie Duffy Rice: Eek.
Tre’vell Anderson: That caused a reckoning for the organization. Celebrities returned their awards. Studios boycotted. Publicists withheld their talent from interviews, and ultimately, NBC, the network that airs the Golden Globes, pulled the show. So the 2022 ceremony, where, by the way, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez made history as the first trans actor to win a Golden Globe in its 80 years was a private non-televised ceremony. Now, this was a big deal because the Globes, even though it has this boozy and irreverent reputation, they played a role in the broader conversation about which films we’d be talking about at the Big Mama of awards show the Oscars. If an actor or a film got a Golden Globe nomination, it could improve their chances for recognition elsewhere. Not having the show last year in many ways shifted what the season looked like. And so in the last year, the HFPA has been making some changes and working to get back into the industry’s good graces. The fact that the show is airing tonight and with so many celebrities announced to be in attendance as nominees or presenters, there’s at least some proof that the org’s efforts have been well received. I wanted to go a bit deeper into this whole ordeal and find out what we can expect on the show tonight. So yesterday, I spoke with Jacqueline Coley. She’s the awards editor over at Rotten Tomatoes. I started by asking her to recap the reporting that led to the reckoning over at the Golden Globes.
Jacqueline Coley: So the L.A. Times did an in-depth investigation, which actually, although this was the banner headline, the fact that the Golden Globes had no Black members for the better part of two decades, that was sort of the big thing, considering you know how many Black films are being judged by the organization. And more particularly, the organization had a reputation for maybe not celebrating as many Black films throughout the years. That was part of it. The other part of it was essentially a lot of cronyism and double dealing that had been running rampant in the organization throughout the years. There had been several controversies around um basically feeling like that organization was maybe influenced more by gifts than other organizations. There have been several sort of controversies through that, and then also their non-for-profit status as an organization that raked in millions of dollars with their contract with NBC. I will go ahead and say I am also a NBC employee. Comcast uh NBCU actually owns NBC, which broadcasts the Golden Globes. And it also owns Fandango, which is where Rotten Tomatoes is housed. However, that sort of relationship really kind of came to a head with this L.A. Times article, because at that moment, both NBC and a lot of the studio heads upon hearing sort of someone taking a peek inside the organization, that perhaps maybe it wasn’t as up and up as it had previously been alleged in other years.
Tre’vell Anderson: You know, the Golden Globes have always had this reputation, if you will, of kind of being like the party of award season, right? Like they were a legitimate award show that all of the big celebrities went to. But also a lot of folks were like, okay, you’re going to get some wild nominations from this group. Could you remind us a little bit of what Hollywood’s response was to the L.A. Times investigation? Like, how did people respond in the moment?
Jacqueline Coley: Well, what was really interesting is immediately there was a very swift response, uh specifically by, I would say, three or four groups. The first being Time’s Up. Um. The second being Netflix and Amazon Studios. They were sort of the very first ones to say, okay, we as a studio are going to be reevaluating our relationship with the organization based on this new information. Um. But then the third, and I think the one that folks sort of forget is actually an honoree this year, Tom Cruise, sending his Golden Globes back uh for what um is to be said for a lot of folks in the industry that was sort of like their Tom Hanks getting COVID moment. That’s when things became real for them as far as how serious Hollywood was taking these allegations. I will say since that moment for all of the folks that were very instantaneous, including NBC, to say, look, the organization has a lot of work to do and we are going to be evaluating our relationship with them as well as everyone in Hollywood, since then however, I will say there has been a ton of effort around the organization as well as through the membership, to not only recruit more journalists that represent the giant swath of folks that go to movie theaters every day, not just Black journalists, but literally trying to make the organization a global reflection of the global cinema audience. They have done a lot of listening sessions. They have been furiously working their PR game. And in the end result, we are now sitting with a very different HFPA than we had a few years ago. And everything around this year’s ceremony is sort of related to that.
Tre’vell Anderson: You made your disclosure earlier, so this is where I will make mine. One of the results that came from this investigation was they created this credentials committee to review and oversee the membership acceptance process. And so I was hired. I’m one of the people that was hired to be on this committee. So now that the awards show is back, comedian Jerrod Carmichael is hosting tonight. What do you think we can kind of expect as the HFPA tries to, you know, win people over? Do we [cough] do we have any kind of gauge as to how the scandal might affect viewership or what we see on the show? I feel like we’ve seen commercials from Jerrod thus far–
Jacqueline Coley: Mm hmm.
Tre’vell Anderson: –that are very kind of, you know, directly addressing the issues that brought us to this point.
Jacqueline Coley: I think it’s going to be interesting to see. I think anyone who has seen Jerrod Carmichael’s standup special Rothaniel or saw his SNL performance from last fall, that is definitely probably what you’re going to be in store for on the comedy side. I think he’s going to definitely bring the laughs. One thing I can report just in my sort of traversing throughout the industry events this year, I will say for the most part, um I think Hollywood is going to show up tonight, although they’re going to be tight lipped. And the Globes by making this on a Tuesday night, they were very smart in this regard because for them, putting on a fairly decent show with most of Hollywood attending, I think is going to be a win for the organization that they can build on. Because I want to remind folks, this is not the very first time that the Golden Globes have received controversy. So for as much as that organization has gone through. And so I think tonight, I think you can say, well, in this case, this is just an organization that is they kind of weather the storm. And as much as I have to be mad about it, I kind of got to respect that. I mean, they’ve been here before and they always find a way to come back.
Tre’vell Anderson: That was my interview with Jacqueline Coley. She’s the awards editor at Rotten Tomatoes. And for those who want to stay in the know about who is winning what, we’ll link to her reporting in our show notes. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break].
Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines.
Josie Duffy Rice: The special grand jury in Fulton County, Georgia, my county, completed its investigation yesterday into whether former President Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election. The 26 member jury spent the last eight months sifting through documents and interviewing witnesses, including MAGA heavyweights like Senator Lindsey Graham and Rudy Giuliani. The panel voted to put out its report to the public before being dissolved yesterday, but we won’t get more details until a hearing later this month. Similar to the House committee investigating January 6th, the Fulton County grand jury can’t issue any indictments, that will be up to Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. As of now, Willis hasn’t said who might be charged, though she has previously said, quote, “If indicted and convicted, people are facing prison sentences.”
Tre’vell Anderson: Here’s an update on the pro-Bolsonaro riots that overtook Brazil’s Congress presidential palace and Supreme Court over the weekend. Authorities arrested over 1000 people as they continue to survey the damage left behind in the capital, Brasilia. President Lula da Silva said those involved in the right wing violent attack will be, quote, “found and punished”. Meanwhile, former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who came to Orlando, Florida, shortly before Lula’s inauguration, spent yesterday in the hospital, which many listeners know is one of his all time favorite places to hang out. Bolsonaro has suffered from abdominal pain since being stabbed at a campaign event in 2018, but his doctor said his current episode isn’t serious.
Josie Duffy Rice: Hopefully he can still make it to Disney World. [laughter] In some positive news, Damar Hamlin, the Buffalo Bills Safety who suffered cardiac arrest during an NFL game last week, is back in Buffalo, New York. Hamlin was released from the U.S. Medical Center in Cincinnati’s intensive care unit yesterday, and his doctors said his condition has been upgraded from critical to good or fair. We will keep following his recovery.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. The man who faked it until the exact moment that he made it. Recently elected congressman from New York, George Santos is the subject of a new watchdog complaint. Yesterday, the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center accused Santos of funding his 2022 campaign using unknown donations he passed off as his own money. Additionally, the organization claims Santos illegally used campaign funds for personal expenses like rent. The Federal Election Commission will now decide whether to investigate Santos, whose many false claims about his background, business experience and status as a Jewish person, have already sparked a probe by the Nassau County District attorney.
Josie Duffy Rice: He clarified he meant Jew-ish. I don’t see what the big deal is. [laughter] He’s been nothing but honest this guy. [laughter continues] And air travel this holiday season may have been even worse than we knew because get this, at one point in mid-December, someone tried to bring a snake onto their plane. That is according to new reports out of the Tampa International Airport. TSA reps have described an incident there in which a passenger was stopped after security discovered a four foot boa constrictor in their carry on. This, of course, is the main reason x-rays were invented. The passenger claimed the snake was their emotional support animal, which will ring true to anyone who derives emotional support from having the air squeezed out of them by a cold tube of pure muscle. Neither passenger nor snake was allowed to fly. Please, people do not do this. Flying is stressful enough without large reptiles and I am announcing it now. If I am on a plane and I see a snake, I am going to force that plane to land. [laughter] And that’s the only way I can live.
Tre’vell Anderson: If you have to smuggle your, you know, emotional support animal in your carry on, maybe it’s not–
Josie Duffy Rice: Maybe it’s not.
Tre’vell Anderson: –an emotional support animal? I mean, I’m no medical, you know, professional. But come on, now, that’s absurd.
Josie Duffy Rice: That’s absurd. [laugh] And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, disclose a snake, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just heavily fictionalized biographies of Congressman George Santos like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
[spoken together] And stay vigilant TSA.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen.
Jacqueline Coley: Please.
Tre’vell Anderson: Keep those eyes peeled.
Josie Duffy Rice: You’re the only thing standing between me and jumping onto the wing of the plane simply to get away from someone’s boa constrictor.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] We’d be like, well, she told us she didn’t like snakes. I don’t know–
Josie Duffy Rice: I know.
Tre’vell Anderson: –what y’all expected.
Josie Duffy Rice: Correct. [laughter] [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.